I got a great question from reader Shauna at The Coupon Project Facebook wall:
I have a question about budgeting and buying snacks. I am assisting at my sons preschool with the after school kids. The kids gets a snack during this time. The monthly budget is $250.00 and I want to make sure the money stretches as far as possible while still giving these kids a nutritious snack. At this time of the day kids are ravenous but it is still not far from dinner. I want to fill their little bellies but still not leave them too full to finish their dinner when they get home. Any suggestions?
I had a few ideas off the bat, but would love to hear from others, too! If you haven’t already, Shauna, I’d assess first if there are any food allergies or food concerns. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to avoid peanut and nut-products when in doubt.
:: Cheese & Crackers. If you didn’t catch my bento post from a couple days ago, you might want to go back and check that out. My son adores the “homemade lunchables” I’ve been making. I take Ritz crackers (or you could opt for another type/brand) and then using bento cutters make cheese and ham circles. To save on cost, you could omit the ham and just do this for cheese and crackers.
:: Fruit & Vegetable Breads. I ADORE making pumpkin bread, banana bread, and zucchini bread! Not only are these filling and delicious, they are very inexpensive to make! Save by buying your flour, sugar, and spices in bulk. You can usually find “baker’s bananas” for around $0.30. (If you don’t see them, just ask!) At the farmer’s markets these days, you might have luck finding a giant zucchini for $1! One of these babies can often make several loaves. I once had a single zucchini from my garden make EIGHT loaves of bread!
:: Buy Fruit & Veggies in season. In the fall, we’ll see some deals on apples and celery. I would think about using those in your meal plans! Around the holidays we’ll see huge bags of potatoes go on sale for a buck or two (french fries, perhaps?). If you’re able to chop up the fruits and veggies yourself and/or make your own dips, you’ll save money over buying those pre-cut platters.
:: Fill in with Coupon deals, sales, and other bargains. Keep an eye out for items to buy with your coupons and sales that might work well for snacks! In December, you’ll usually find lots of Chex cereal deals – perhaps use that as a base for your own trail mix. Head to Grocery Outlet where you can almost always find items like granola bars and fruit snacks on killer deal. Haunt the bulk bins at stores like WinCo for items like blueberry muffin mix and goldfish crackers. I’d also mention – blackberries are abounding right now here in the Pacific Northwest! Perhaps make some blackberry scones or some other item that takes advantage of the free, delicious ingredient.
Readers, what other tips do you have for Shauna? I’d particularly love to hear from those of you that may have had to plan kids’ snacks in batch like this before. What worked? Other kid-friendly recipes you could add to my list?